Bottas favourite to replace Kimi at Ferrari
Ferrari claim underperforming Räikkönen’s future is “in his own hands” as they consider their options for 2016
Williams driver Valtteri Bottas has emerged as the leading contender for a race seat at Ferrari next year, should the Scuderia choose to drop Kimi Räikkönen.
As F1 Racing went to press, Ferrari were insisting that “nothing had changed” with regard to their 2016 driver line-up. That is a reference to a public statement from Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne that Räikkönen’s future “is in his own hands”, in the context of the team’s desire for him to up his game and be consistently closer to team-mate Sebastian Vettel, particularly in qualifying.
Ferrari have an option to retain Räikkönen for 2016, but have not yet decided whether to take it. After showing interest in Bottas last year, their focus then switched to Daniel Ricciardo, and they made a tentative attempt to prise him away from Red Bull in 2014. Ricciardo signed a new contract with Red Bull over the winter, committing him to the team until the end of 2018. Buying him out would be extremely expensive and difcult.
Williams, however, are believed to have decided that they will sell Bottas, for whom they have an option, for the right price. But the two teams have reached an impasse in negotiations and Ferrari have decided to delay a decision on Räikkönen’s future until later in the summer.
If Bottas leaves for Ferrari, a possible replacement would be Jenson Button. The 2009 world champion is under option to McLaren for 2016, but there is no guarantee they will keep him on alongside Fernando Alonso. McLaren have three options already under contract – Jenson Button, reserve driver Kevin Magnussen and Belgian rising star Stoffel Vandoorne – and have not yet decided whether they will go for the expensive proven option in Button, or a cheaper one with a longer potential future.
Williams also have former Ferrari racer Felipe Massa under option for next season, and are keen to keep him on.